• This is how we live it

Located in the ruins of an old granite quarry, the Municipal of Braga is a fusion between the stone of the mountain and the concrete of the work erected for Euro 2004. "It's hard to tell where the stone ends and the concrete begins. One supports the other," says its architect. And Madrid was stone and concrete. He punished the back of a Sporting as brave as they were innocent with a stellar Vinicius in the goals of Rodrygo and Bellingham.

Ancelotti doesn't understand this Madrid without rotations and he shook his tree again. He sat Alaba, Mendy, Tchouaméni and Kroos in, and was going to rest Rodrygo as well, but Joselu found himself indisposed during the afternoon. The Italian introduced Nacho, Fran, Camavinga and Modric, all substitutes at the Pizjuán. It didn't change his idea of the game. Four midfielders, the will to press the opponent's ball out and to look for the back of the defence in attack at the slightest opportunity. And he succeeded.

Sporting, a brave team eager to bite, were perhaps too innocent in their bravery. Artur Jorge, their coach, placed his four defenders in a high position to try to avoid play between the lines of the midfield and the Madrid forward, but offered space at the back, where Vinicius became a giant by exploiting what he does best. Run and be vertical.

Rodrygo's goal

After a first quarter of an hour of some tense calm, with Braga dominating possession and Madrid imprecise in combinations, Nacho found Vinicius behind one of the centre-backs. The Brazilian beat Saatci, held him off, dribbled him towards the byline and found a perfect pass to Rodrygo, who attacked the six-yard box. Niakate came first, but the rebound was caught by the Brazilian to score for the first time since August 12. End to a streak that worried the attacker and gave Valdebebas a headache.

The goal gave peace of mind to a Madrid that began to visualize Saturday's derby in their heads. Ancelotti tried a defensive plan of two lines of four, with Bellingham lying on the left, perhaps thinking about the necessary defensive help to Cancelo's starts. The Englishman shone and emptied, always generous in the effort towards his own goal.

Braga threatened Kepa's goal with lateral crosses, the Merengues' biggest weakness, but they hardly troubled a well-planted Madrid on the granite quarry. The Whites took possession and played several rondos until they found gaps at the back. Another Rodrygo could have scored, but his goal was disallowed by the referee for offside by Vinicius at the start. The former Flamengo man was the best player in the first half and came close to scoring after a good pass from Bellingham. He found the edge of the box and looked for Matheus' left post, but he flew to prevent the 0-2. Vini, again, repeated his opportunity by surprising with a run after a throw-in by Carvajal, but he failed to send the ball into the net.

Nerves at the end

After the break, Madrid took complete control of the match. He bored the home fans, silent during endless possessions, and found gold in the player of the moment: Bellingham. The Briton gave the first warning with a volley that sent Matheus flying and scored the second of the night at the end of a trademark counterattack. Valverde found Rodrygo in the gap, who accelerated until he had an easy horizontal pass to Vini. It went long, but the number 7 restarted the play and assisted Bellingham, who with a soft shot, with the inside, touched the goalkeeper's lower left net.

The goal, which seemed to be the sentence, put Madrid to sleep and was a pinch for the locals. In the next play, Djalo appeared behind Fran García and made it 1-2 with his team's first shot on goal of the entire match. Ancelotti couldn't believe it. That's when some minutes of Madrid pressure began, with Braga turned over. Kepa saved the equaliser against Horta and Abel Ruiz had a last-gasp equaliser as Madrid spared the third.

Nine points from three Champions League games and Bellingham's discomfort as the only concern ahead of Saturday's Clasico.

  • Real Madrid
  • Articles Abraham Romero